Softball: Behind Lauren Harbison’s 12-strikeout shutout, Henry wins first regional title since 2006

Junior also hits RBI triple in 2-0 win over Annawan-Wethersfield

The Henry-Senachwine softball team defeated Annawan-Wethersfield 2-0 on Friday, May 17, 2024 in Amboy. It is the Mallards' first regional title since 2006.

AMBOY – Henry-Senachwine junior Lauren Harbison blew a pitch past Annawan-Wethersfield’s Elaina Manuel.

As soon as the “pop” sounded in the glove, Harbison let out a “Woooo,” ran toward home plate and leaped into the arms of catcher Kaitlyn Anderson.

It was a big moment for the Mallards.

Harbison’s 12th strikeout of the game sealed No. 2-seeded Henry’s 2-0 win over the No. 6 Titans in the Class 1A Amboy Regional championship.

“It feels amazing,” Harbison said. “This is what I’ve been dreaming of since my freshman year, so it’s great to be able to do it finally.”

It’s the second regional title in program history and the Mallards’ first since 2006.

“We have a teacher who had a daughter who was part of the 2006 team, and she said it would be great for us to go out and do it again,” Harbison said. “We just got new banners in the gym, so now they’re going to have to take it down and put it back up [with our title on it].”

“This is what I’ve been dreaming of since my freshman year, so it’s great to be abel to do it finally.”

—  Lauren Harbison, Henry junior

Henry coach Lori Stenstrom said the title was “a long time coming.”

“They’ve just worked really hard, and they’ve believed and bought into it that they could be here and here we are,” Stenstrom said.

The Mallards (17-12) advance to the Williamsfield Sectional to face AlWood (25-5-1) at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday. AlWood beat Abingdon-Avon 2-0 on Friday in the AlWood Regional final.

“We are hoping to go as far as we can and re-create what our boys did last year [when the Henry baseball team was 1A runner-up],” Harbison said.

Harbison was dominant in the circle Friday.

Lauren Harbison

She allowed only two infield hits while striking out 12 and walking none.

“Lauren I thought threw really well today,” Stenstrom said. “She was on today. She was just mixing it up all over the place. She was getting ahead in the count. That was our game plan coming in. Kaitlyn called a really nice game behind the plate. They got it done.”

Harbison was the hero offensively as well.

She had the Mallards’ only hit through three innings. Henry loaded the bases with no outs in the fourth with the help of two Titan errors, but the next three batters struck out.

Harbison and the Mallards broke through in the fifth.

MacKenzie Hartwig drew a walk to start the inning.

Harbison then ripped a line drive into left-center field that rolled to the fence, and she raced all the way to third base for an RBI triple.

Harbison then scored on a wild pitch for Henry’s 2-0 lead.

“Going through my mind I was like, ‘This is your time to do it. This could be your last at-bat,’” Harbison said. “It was scoreless and I knew we needed to hit. So I was like, ‘No one better.’ I was hoping for anything. A single would have done. I know I have teammates behind me who could come up and do the same thing, but it worked out for the best.

“It felt great. I was so excited on third base.”

Harbison then retired the final six A-W batters, including three by strikeout.

“It brought me back to my eighth grade days,” Harbison said about the final strikeout and leaping into Anderson’s arms. “That’s what I was dreaming of. If I had to pick a way to win it, a strikeout is what I would have chosen.”

Have a Question about this article?